Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Evil (1980) Lewis Jackson - the true meaning of Christmas

I mentioned last post that this was playing in my town at the modern art museum for free and I could not go. Well, I did go. I took my Great Directors of Cinema final exam as quickly as I could and got from Costa Mesa to Newport Beach in record time, running only one red light. The movie was not quite half over when I got there, but that was no big deal since I'd just watched it at home less than a week ago. I was disappointed to see that movie was being projected off of the DVD. As this must-read article explains, the museum cannot project 35mm. From the director's talk after the movie we learned that all DVD releases of this movie, and probably all VHS versions, have a washed out look and do not show that this movie was filmed in especially brilliant and vibrant color. A world-renowned cinematographer from France was hired for the movie and his lighting bill alone nearly doubled the film's budget! An official DVD release under the original title You Better Watch Out will be available in October 2006. John Waters, a major fan of the movie, will be doing guest commentary. The screening I went to was in conjunction with a John Waters art exhibit and film series.

After the film screened a lot of people split right away and did not stay for the deleted scenes and director's speech, which was the main reason I was there. Director Lewis Jackson counted nine fans still remaining and said that was the story of his life and career. This movie is the only one he has ever directed (in 1980) because it scarred his reputation so badly! Amazingly, he is still behind this film and has not disowned it as many others in his position would have. How he is not a bitter and angry man, I do not know. He clearly still loves this movie and is campaigning for it till this day! Talk about never selling out!

This European DVD cover not only says "Don't Fuck with Santa!", it also shows Santa with his gun, but there are no guns in the movie!

Check this out...

1. The movie is basically famous under the Christmas Evil title, which I must say is a pretty cool title, but it does not fit with the film's general message. Lewis Jackson never wanted the title to changed from You Better Watch Out. Note: there is another title, presumably unauthorized as well, Terror in Toyland. (Note: From what he said, I, for the first time, fell guilty for watching pirated movies. You guys know I am a big advocate for low cost DVDs, but unfortunately, they are often cheep because the movie maker isn't getting paid.)

2. As I mentioned before, the versions of this movie most people have seen all have very muted color and great pain were taken to make this an extremely bright and colorful movie.

3. Lewis Jackson has not, until very recently, owned the rights to this movie. Do to the numerous versions of this movie you can find from low end DVD companies, you would think that this movie was in the public domain, but Jackson explains that this is not the case. All DVDs of this movie are bootlegs, including the one I've got in the 50 Movie Pack, Chilling Classics. The Troma edition, is slightly more legitimate as you can read in the article I linked above.

Anyway, the movie aims high and I believe it hits the mark. It's a true tale of Christmas, a story of a man standing up for what he believes in. I personally relate. Can you? How are we supposed to react after being taught to believe in something as a child, only to find out as we grow that no one can stay true to their beliefs and ideals? I'm not talking just about the belief in the magic of Santa, but am taking a deeper look at the issue, as this movie does. Childhood is simple. There is good and there is evil. When we grow we find out that it's not a good versus evil world. Grown-ups are evil and are constantly struggling to become more evil. Life is a race to shed the innocence of childhood and become as evil as possible. People are eager to shed the simplicity of their true and correct childhood beliefs and to replace these with selfish relativism..

To think that these people even go to church? It is no accident that the finest kills in Christmas Evil take place after Midnight Mass on the step of a New York City church. The scum come out of the church with cruel intentions trying to joke at Santa's expense in order to impress a female friend. Fortunately, there is a butchering.

I mentioned that I had trouble transitioning from innocent child to predatory adult. I think the shock is what triggered me to become deeply involved in militant animal rights activism. It was like a Holy War for me, like one of the Narnia books come to life. Did we not believe in the messages these books taught us when we were young. As adults you say "that's nice in principal, but let's be realistic". Adults do not follow their hearts and as a result they lose their hearts.

I believe that Christmas Evil spreads the Narnia message perhaps better than the new Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe movie does. For the record, the Narnia movie is impressive, but falls short of being a masterpiece.

Anyway, I thanked the director Lewis Jackson for coming out to this screening, which I might mention, was free of charge. During his speech he also mentioned his movie getting lumped in with Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) and other Christmas slashers, which hurt his reputation further. I guess I'm too young to understand the prejudices that the serious film community held against slashers and horror movies in general before my time. These days I think it's much easier for a horror director to cross over into the mainstream. Horror movies get more respect. Minds are less closed. I think today that it would even be possible for a director to use genre films as a stepping stone to mainstream movies kind of like how bands today use the hardcore scene to break into the world of MTV2 metal, but I digress... I have yet to see an example of this phenomenon, but bullshit horror director Uwe Bolle has got something called In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (with a LOTR running time) in the works.

Back to a director that really matters, Lewis Jackson was on his way out the door and I was in my car talking to Cub. She knew how excited I was to go to this screening and I told her how I thanked the director and even now he was just getting ready to leave, just two cars away from me. She asked me if I told him how much I liked the movie and I said I did not because I did not want to bother him further. Fortunately she persuaded me to get out of my car and do so before it was too late. I can be pretty shy around talent that I am impressed by. I have a lot of respect for this guy because, as I mentioned before, he did not sell out and turn his back on this movie even though it has never been well received. He said it took something like five screenings to initially find a single person who liked it and then of course there were all the problems in this years following that I have already mentioned. After twenty-six years the film will finally get the proper treatment with the upcoming DVD release under the correct title and from a good print. What an ordeal it must been for him!

Anyway, I don't want to ruin the plot for anyone who has not seen this movie. It can be a funny movie, even if you take it seriously, as I obviously do. Here is a cub speaks from before I went to the screening, from when we watched the movie for the first time, about a week ago.

Cub, I even strung up Christmas lights to get you in the mood for this one. Were you happy?

I loved that you put up Christmas lights in our room. It was very romantic and it totally sets the mood and creates a warm fuzzy inside. It is a cub tradition to put up Christmas lights in our room during the winter holiday season. jeez ...if only we had some soy eggnog to drink and some brandy? ..I mean we would make it virgin for you of course. I can't wait until we go to Chicago and sneak off in the middle of the night to sit under the Christmas tree at my house and tell scary bedtime stories.

Is it annoying that I only let us watch these movies during the Christmas season?

It is annoying that you have us wait to see Christmas movies until Christmas... I mean how long does a girl really need to wait just to see a damn movie (a year according to some naughty cubs).


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